I just got done with one of my Simple Times of Peace (aka “STOP”) where I disconnect from as much post-19th-century-tech as possible. As usual, the first couple of hours were like wheels spinning in my head as I got used to not checking email, twitter, etc. One of the issues of working as I do is that I usually need to monitor those rather closely for clients or for my own work; taking three nights and two days off from it is a luxury!
When I first started doing these retreats, I would fill them with things that I should be doing: eating healthy meals, yoga, meditation. Thing is, now those are pretty well incorporated into my daily life…so instead, lately I spend the time doing things that don’t involve tech that I keep telling myself I want to do but don’t have the time for.
The result is the picture you see above:
- Read three novels, two nonfiction books and a graphic novel series.
- Hand-written letter to My Canadian Girlfriend
- Life model sketching courtesy of my partner Natasha
- Hand-bound “Bullet Journal” (made up of targets perforated by my father and I).
- Family motto word-art piece Work In Progress
- Not pictured: re-organized and cleaned desk, drafting table, and printer table.
- Also not pictured: helping out at a local community center’s holiday party, spending quality family time, and a sunny walk.
All that, in two days. What could I do if I had that kind of time all the time?
In Which I Do Not Take the Easy Answer
The answer, of course, is one I already know: I do have that kind of time all the time. I just don’t tend to use it in the same way, because I let the Information Age take more of it.
There’s a common refrain among personal development bloggers like me, that is summed up by three words: Stop watching TV. Which sounds simple enough, right? Except that the people who say “you can write that novel/run that race/paint that portrait” are conveniently forgetting the other element that goes along with time: energy.
I don’t know about you, but I will get to the end of a day – especially a really productive day – and see, very clearly, the choice I have. On the one hand, I can draw – or write – or study. On the other, Natasha and I can turn on the TV and find something to watch.
Guess which one takes less energy?
I don’t, honestly, yet know what to do about that. I’m working to try and both pace myself during the day and also build up more stamina so that at the end of the day I feel like I have enough energy to do things.
There’s also the feeling that if I was doing one of my creative endeavors that would be isolating – whereas, when we are watching the same show, there is a feeling that we are doing it together.
And finally? I’m not one of those snobs who believes that there’s nothing good on TV. There is a LOT of great storytelling, acting, and imagery out there, and watching “The Bodyguard” for six hours is as good as the six hours it took for me to read “Zero World” (both highly recommended, incidentally).
While I enjoy the breaks from technology, I’m not ready to throw away the TV.
But maybe there’s a happy medium…
Practicing Intentional TV
With a big list of things that I have that are not TV that I’d like to be doing, perhaps I can keep the endless selection of shows from eating into that time. In short, rather than say “let’s watch netflix” we can say “Let’s watch a couple of episodes of the Bodyguard” or “Let’s rent this one movie”. It’s a simple hack, and honestly part of the appeal is that it does go back to the days when we had to plan our time around the shows we wanted to watch – rather than simply surfing the choices in the hopes of finding something.
You may already have seen one of the holes in this plan: how will you know what to watch unless you surf the menus? And that’s a good question; I can see a list of “shows to try out” filling one of my handy Field Notes, based on recommendations from friends, things I see online (come on, it’s not like I’m going to be immune from marketing) and the glimpses I will get finding the things online.
One more part of the practice is to try and find some parity in “TV-leisure” and “non-TV leisure”. That is, if I do watch a movie, I’ll try to spend an equal amount of time relaxing some other way – books, drawing, etc – and see if it balances more.
As usual, this is just a test – and we’ll talk next Monday about how it went. Want to try it? Let me know in the comments.
And feel free to also start suggestions for that list. Right now, our intentional TV includes “Brave” and maybe “Jumanji” for New Year’s Eve, and then a deliberate voyage into the full “Clone Wars” series.
How about you?